Updated: Dec 22, 2022
The parent and child relationship is as primordial as it gets. It's one that shapes and influences our lives right to the very end and like every other relationship, it has its ups and downs - remember your teens?
It's also not uncommon for many to have fraught relationships with their parents right into adulthood, and at some level harbour resentment and blame for where we find ourselves in life and the 'lack' that we may feel.
The truth that we all realise at some stage is that raising children is bloody hard work - and it goes on for a lifetime. Kids don't exactly come with an instruction manual either and with the changing times, every generation of parents are left to navigate this minefield of parenting pretty much on their own.
I remember watching a netflix documentary on Tony Robbins once who had a very sage piece of advice on this matter.
"If you are going to blame your parents for all the bad things in your life, you also need to give them the credit for all the good things!"
So lets begin a conversation on everything our parents nailed - things they got right about parenting, which although may have sucked at the time, with hindsight we can see it was absolutely the right way to bring us up.
Here's my list of ten.
I will begin by saying that there was ample love and care and no neglect or abuse in our household. It goes without saying but this was the foundation on which everything else below rested on, which is why it all worked.
1. There was a clear boundary between the parent and the child
Growing up we got a lot of love and care from our parents but it was also crystal clear in our minds that they were the parents and we were the child. We knew that we had to be respectful towards our parents (and other elder members of the family) and be grateful for all that our family did for us. There was no sense of entitlement growing up.
In some ways the traditional (Fijian-)Indian culture we grew up in at the time helped instill this in our young minds but it was also enforced in the day-to-day at home.
Like any other kid, we too were constantly testing boundaries to see how much we could get away with... I remember this would tolerated to some extent before the behaviour was called out as being unacceptable and repercussion that we would bring onto ourselves spelt out in no uncertain terms... I was a particularly 'short-fused' child so had plenty of practice with here ;-)
2. They adjusted the boundaries as we moved in our teen and early adulthood years
As we grew into our teens and early adulthood, the way our parents interacted with us changed. They treated us like the young adults that we were, with our own sense of discerning intelligence, hopes, dreams, personalities, etc.
The rules of the household, as in what was acceptable and what was not, was by this stage embedded in our minds so no micro-management was needed there. Yet there was sufficient freedom to make and learn from our own mistakes.
Mum and dad were still fairly strict in our early teenage years, especially around the 'company' we kept. When were 13-15, we would not be allowed to 'hang' with friends after school or over weekends - forget sleepovers. They were always conscious that we did not get unduly influenced by other kids or rather other people's 'bad parenting' ... It wasn't until they felt that we had sufficient maturity to see things for what they were, did they loosen the leash.
Of course this was annoying at the time because it felt like other kids had more freedom than we did but with hindsight I am grateful to have been 'sheltered' during these early vulnerable years of teen life before being set free in later years.
3. Everyone had to contribute to the running of the household, with no gender specific roles
We pretty much grew up on a small farm - had chickens, ducks, goats, extensive vegetable gardens, cooked all of our own meals, made our own oils, condiments and pickles and lived a fairly self-sufficient live off the land and sea. All this whilst my parents had full time "office" jobs; dad co-founded a IT company with his mate and mum worked in the finance department of a large company.
Needless to say, there was a lot that needed to get done and everyone had to contribute to the running of the household.
Even from a very young age, we all had clearly defined chores, roles and responsibilities at home. I'd be lying if I say that we loved doing these chores ... we were kids - we didn't. It was painful, especially cleaning windows every two weeks... Why mum, why?
But again with hindsight, this made us feel like we were part of a team and had a role to play to keep the team going. In the process we also picked up practical life skills that only come from doing.
It's funny, after all these years as I work with large companies on setting strategies, putting in place structures and shaping cultures, the same consideration applies - clearly defined roles and responsibilities gives people a sense of purpose and belonging which are key to building and driving engagement.
Our roles were also gender agnostic - my brothers washed dishes and did the vacuuming. I cleaned the chicken coop and tendered to the goats (except the big male one...). We all did what was required, although we did have different quirks, interests and strengths so gravitated towards some tasks naturally more than others.
4. There was a stable routine
I personally get bored with routine and am always mixing things up but can see that it was such a stabilising factor growing up.
My older sister would be up at 5.30am to prepare breakfast for the family and pack our lunches.
Mum and dad would potter around doing other household chores
Dad would do the morning drop-offs, aiming to but never quite leaving by 7.30am
Mum would always be the last person to get into the car
I was always 15mins late getting to school, much to my teacher's annoyance ...
We got home from school at around 4pm in our school bus
We had a full two hours of freedom before mum and dad got home - scrambling to do our chores just before they got back
Mum and dad would be back home between 5.30pm and 6.00pm from work and we'd sit down for a family dinner at around 7pm
I would also be the last person at the table begrudgingly finishing off my food as dad would not give me leave to waste food, knowing too well I had skipped breakfast and chucked my lunch in the bushes on the way back from school ...
We'd do our homework until bed
Occasionally we watched TV (see point 6)